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Number's up Gran nicked almost €10K from Orange Order lodge to feed slot machine addiction

She admitted to the police that “what started out as a bit of harmless fun” escalated to her using gambling machines in bookies “several times a week as a gambling addiction took hold”.

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Exposed: Our man at Josephine Trimble's door

Exposed: Our man at Josephine Trimble's door

Exposed: Our man at Josephine Trimble's door

Pilfering pensioner Josephine Trimble stole thousands of pounds from her Orange Order lodge to feed her addiction to bingo hall slot machines.

The 72-year-old, almost as frail as she is fraudulent, just escaped going to jail this week after stealing almost €10,000 from her lodge in Markethill, Co Armagh – and has coronavirus to thank for keeping her free.

Judge Gordon Kerr QC gave her a 15-month jail term for her deceitful crimes but suspended the sentence because of her health condition COPD made her particularly vulnerable to Covid-19.

Trimble had been stealing from the Anne Sinton Memorial WLOL 105 – where she was the treasurer – for a staggering 30 years.

Newry Crown Court was told how the greedy grandmother started pocketing cash to spend on gambling machines at local bingo halls.

She admitted to the police that “what started out as a bit of harmless fun” escalated to her using gambling machines in bookies “several times a week as a gambling addiction took hold”.

And Trimble admitted the addiction was “out of control”.

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Exposed: Our man at Josephine Trimble's door

Exposed: Our man at Josephine Trimble's door

Exposed: Our man at Josephine Trimble's door

Trimble, who joined the lodge in 1990, had been voted in as treasurer in 1993 and remained as such until she was caught out – and that only happened in January last year due to an audit into the lodge’s account when it changed banks.

On Friday we called as her home in Keady Street, Markethill, to ask her about pulling the wool over the Orange Lodge’s eyes for 30 years.

Reluctant to open the door fully, she was furious when she realised who we were.

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“I f***ing knew you were a reporter,” snapped the OAP before slamming her door shut.

At an earlier hearing Trimble admitted fraud by abuse of position in that she abused her position as treasurer of the lodge and the theft of €9,987.02 (£8,893.83), committed between January 1, 1993 and January 2, 2019.

Judge Kerr said she had been “trusted by her friends and associates to be treasurer” but that during the audit “it became clear that over many years, this defendant had in fact been stealing money from her friends and colleagues who had given her their trust”.

Arrested and questioned, Trimble admitted the thefts began when she was “frequenting local bingo halls” where she started using gambling machines.

Defence counsel John Paul McCann told the court that “at the time she was working as a care worker so she was giving back to the community in that sense,” and that a “nasty fall” in 2005 ended that career leaving her in a difficult financial position, having to rely on her pension.

“To her shame she continued to dip into lodge funds,” said Mr McCann, highlighting that Trimble “recognises the impact” her offending has had on the lodge and also on her own life in that the mother, grandmother and great grandmother has “lost a lot of friends over this” and has let her family down as well.

Describing the offences as “extremely serious,” Judge Kerr said while the money stolen was “at the lower end of the scale nevertheless it’s a significant sum of money to a small voluntary organisation”.

The lodge, said the judge, had provided a statement “showing the hurt that it’s caused the lodge and its reputation and to the people who people who are members in it who had trusted this defendant”.

Judge Kerr told Trimble the guidelines made it clear that for breach of trust thefts such as hers that the “inevitable result will be an immediate custodial sentence” unless there are exceptional factors.

He said while there were “significant aggravating factors” such as the protracted length of time the frauds were perpetrated and the degree of the breach of trust, the judge continued there were also mitigating features including her clear record, guilty plea and that despite being on benefits, she had managed to gather up €2,245.83 (£2,000) as part restitution.

None of those features amounted to exceptionality, said the judge who told the court that what did warrant suspension of the prison sentence was that Trimble suffers from COPD “a condition that makes her particularly vulnerable at this time”.

“If this lady was imprisoned she would go into two weeks of isolation and have restricted movement during her time in custody so it’s fair to say that a lady of her age, with no previous convictions and no previous experience of the criminal justice system would be impacted very severely by an immediate custodial sentence,” said the judge.

Imposing the suspended jail term, Judge Kerr ordered that the €2,245.83 had to be lodged with the court that day, issuing a compensation order in favour of Anne Sinton Memorial WLOL 505.

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